The pumpkin tradition

I wrote last year how much comfort we found in the months after we lost Chris’ dad in the simplest things.  Like doing the same things we’d done the year before and the year before that.  Pumpkins are one of those things.  And pulling into Bob’s Corn is the essence of autumn for us.  The kids look forward to the bumpy, uncomfortable cow train every year.  We’ve learned to bring garbage bags for muddy boots and fresh pants for the ride home.

Tradition doesn’t have to be big or expensive.  It’s just totally lovely sometimes to establish things that you can look forward to doing together again.

Next year this little girl will want to ride all by herself…and Finn will be big enough to ride on my lap!

Nana got in on the cow train fun – she wants everyone to know that the back is the most exciting/dangerous/bumpy place on the whole train

Note the Papa in the back, he’s trying to keep up with all his grandsons!

Can you tell he’s a little silly happy to have these three awesome men as son-in-laws?

The sisters – yes, I’ve worn that same jacket three years in a row!

Like Nana’s boots?

Oh the joy of the cousins – Issac told his mama the night before we went “I’m tired of doing all this stuff.  I just want to go to the pumpkin patch with my cousins.”  Who could blame him for that?!?

Too cute.  Last year she slept through the whole thing – totally ready for action this October!

Seven grandkids ages 8 months to 8 years!

Just when you think you’ve got things under control

It’s Sunday night.  Kids and husband have pitched in and worked hard and the house is close to back in order.  I remark that I absolutely must spend some time writing out lesson plans after bedtime for our school week.  I clean the kitchen after yet another round of applesauce making so I can have a free counter to spread books out.

I breathe a sigh of relief.  Starting the week in good order is such a blessing for me.  It makes such a difference in how things go. I spend a brief moment relaxing on the couch before I begin my next task. Kids are all tucked in bed and it is quiet.

Enter Rylee.  She’s talking fast and has wide eyes and is saying something like “emergency, its an emergency, come, come see!”.  She has a slight smile so I know its not a grave injury.

We quickly follow her down the hall.  A smell greets us in our shower but worse yet a sight.  Our shower basin is filling fast as toilet refuse combined with kitchen sink drainage is spewing up the drain.  We run for towels.  We grab a plunger.  I start sopping brown liquid and he starts plunging everything he can possible plunge to no avail.

He gets on the phone with a plumber who of course says they can come ‘for an extra after hours charge’.  I see dollar signs in my head but also 7 people who ‘need’ running water and toilets.  All the plumbing and water for the whole house is at a standstill.

Kids now are bustling from the drama and no one wants to stay in bed.  Toilet water spilling onto the floor mixed with piles of pumpkin seeds from tonight’s carving is too exciting to not see.

When the plumber finally arrives its past my bedtime and my hopes of peaceful lesson planning are long gone.  And he needs access to our bedroom so we can’t put the baby to sleep in there.  He starts working and trying to drain the flood waters back.  It doesn’t go well.  A valve breaks over his head and instead of water slowly draining into buckets it covers the poor man head to toe even in his mouth and empties all over our crawl space (the crawl space that was just re-done last year and is was pristinely clean).

I am mortified and want to offer him a shower and towels immediately.  But of course I have no clean towels and no running water, so that’s out of the question.  He tries to continue working but simply cannot given the saturated, smelly nature of his self.  Who could blame him for leaving?

Now its midnight and we try to retire for the night but mixed up baby who should have been in bed hours ago is not tired anymore.  Besides, he got into the dog food earlier in the day and ate some and has a most unpleasant belly ache – which I probably would too if I ate dog food.  We still have no working plumbing.  I spend the next 5 hours up and up again with little Phineas.  At one point I step in bathroom water but am honestly too ridiculously tired to find clean pj pants.  I roll the pants up to my thigh and crawl into bed for the umpteenth time.

By 5:30 AM Finn settles and I sleep for more than 30 minutes.  My phone got misplaced at some point so its not by my bed to wake me early for homeschool co-op in the morning.  Instead I wake at 8:40 to the plumbers knocking on the door.

In my pajamas.

With my one leg still rolled all the way up.

With kids running around who’ve been awake apparently for almost two hours playing horse quite happily in the backyard.

I am incoherent.  I tell the sweet plumber that we’re supposed to be at co-op and what do they need and “I’m so sorry I just woke up…”.  Seriously – it was a completely crazy scene.  They smile at me and say to just leave the door unlocked and they’ll get to work.

Kids run to the van but then I realize one is missing and I run back in to wake up the one who is still sound asleep.  We stop at a coffee stand for a pathetic ‘breakfast’ on the way.  I am in yesterday’s dirty jeans and a baseball cap and am pretty sure I have crazy written all over my face.

We make it only 20 minutes late and boys who are thrilled to finish a very cool art project make it in time.  I take deep breaths and share my plight with a sweet mama in the playroom who offers her house later if our problems are not fixable soon.

We stop at the park on the way home and breath plenty of fresh smelling air before heading home.  Problem (mostly) fixed.  A graciously less-than-it-could-have-been bill for me to pay.  Piles of nasty laundry to do.  Cleaning work that I won’t get paid for that will involve a clothespin on my nose and an open bottle of essential oil of lavender.

Coincidence that all this went down on a Sunday night/Monday?  On a day that I remind myself to choose gratitude?  Really?

#523 – toilets that flush

#524 – not having to wash clothes by hand

#525 – resources to fix this (very large!) problem

#526 – the three hours of sleep I DID get

#527 – how it feels to have friends call to check up on me

#528 – a strong enough stomach to clean utter nastiness

#529 – getting to do life, every day, messy, real life with my children by my side

#530 – Snickers minis

#531 – laughter in spite of it all

At home date night

Getting a babysitter for five children is not only a challenge sometimes but quite spendy.  However, making time to do stuff together besides dishes and bedtime and yard work is super important.  We’ve already lived out one season paying the price for not making our marriage a priority and let me just say for the record it wasn’t wonderful.

Intentionally carving out face time for the mom and dad are critical to maintaining or growing a healthy marriage and family.  One very wise older mother once told me:

One of the very best gifts you can give your children is parents who love each other well.

I’ve never forgotten what she said.  But I have sure chosen not to love well more than once and I certainly haven’t always made the time to cultivate it either.

Ever a work in progress though I left this in our bathroom knowing my husband would see it when he got home from work last week:

I asked him later before I’d gone back to our room if he’d written me back.  He didn’t know a reply was needed so he went and jotted me a very nice ‘yes’ to my invite.

Simple, cheap, fun and sweet.  It doesn’t have to take much!

Best part?  Our oldest asking me the next day when she woke up – “Did you have fun on your date with daddy in the family room last night?”

Mukilteo Monday

Last week was a week I wouldn’t mind forgetting for the most part.  I got the flu and struggled immensely just to get through the days and care for our family.  Usually, I get thrown up on and coughed on and maintain a fairly excellent immune system but last week didn’t work out just so.

So, it being Monday and all I’m finding the need great to keep counting gifts…

#509 – netflix on sick days

#510 – my hubby installing twelve, yes twelve, new lightbulbs for me – the house is so much brighter!

#511 – babylegs on crazy chubby thighs

#512 – a brunch jazz cruise around the bay, a super thoughtful gift from friends

#513 – above mentioned friends watching our five kids WITH their five kids for FIVE hours while we enjoyed said cruise

#514 – knowing he still thinks I’m beautiful

#515 – a freezer full of beef coming our way tomorrow….yum

#516 – spontaneous ice cream outings

#517 – an impromptu beach dinner at sunset on this oh-so-totally-gorgeous Pacific NW fall evening

#518 – Ivar’s fish and chips

#519 – he thinks she’s beautiful too

#520 – living near ferries and water

#521 – silly silhouettes

#522 – kissing in the dark

You never know

The year was 1995.

We were both seventeen and hopelessly in love.  We’d started dating out of rebellion but in a way that only can be explained by God’s handiwork, we figured out that we weren’t going about things the right way.

A young youth leader named Aaron at church had invested his heart into my then boyfriend.  His love for people and Jesus was intoxicating.  Unlike anyone we’d ever known,  he had no filter for anything he said except the overwhelming grace and love of God.

So when we came to the point of wanting to change our course, he and his sweet young bride were the only people we knew that we felt like we could go to for some accountability and encouragement.

Seniors in high school who loved our sleep but loved each other more, we woke before the sun and headed to a slightly dumpy Denny’s restaurant that smelled of smoke.  Every other Thursday morning at 6 AM.

They dared to ask us hard questions.  They loved us.  They were honest and real.  We carefully watched every aspect of their lives.  The way she took the time to write me letters, the handwritten kind on paper.  The way he looked at her even though they’d been together since they were 14.  The extremely humble way they lived and the way God always provided for them.   The fact they always ended our time together by praying for us.  The way they could bring any conversation back to Jesus.

In an Olive Garden parking lot that same year, he had prayed with my beau as he committed to becoming a Jesus follower.  Instead of judgement or impossible standards they loved us just as we were and led us on a journey of finding God’s best for our relationship.

Four years later, Aaron was a shoe-in as the officiant for our May wedding.  We sat dreamy eyed in his office for premarital counseling and were fairly sure we were headed for wedded bliss. Turns out we might have been a bit off, but twelve years later here we are.

Fast forward many years, our paths didn’t cross often but every time it did we were blessed.  He faithfully shares truth wrapped in love.  He doesn’t shy from hard conversations.  His tender, beautiful wife can make you feel like you are the only person in a crowded room and she is hearing every single word you say.

All this history to say that today we got to share lunch in our home with these precious ones and 6 of their amazing children.  I can’t really describe what a gift it was.  At one point I grabbed my old photo album (the one with some horrific mid nineties photos) and showed them their signatures.  As we had met with them all those years ago, we’d written up a covenant that we wanted to mark our relationship.  We’d all four signed it.  And I still had it in our living room.  It was dated April 1996.

I am sure that they probably didn’t expect us to get married one day.  Nobody figured we would.  They might not have guessed we’d be in ministry at a church before our wedding.    They likely didn’t have a clue what the return on their investment in our life would be. 

That is precisely why I had to share this.  We usually don’t.  Whoever we have the chance to love, to lead, to serve – we may not get to see what the payoff is.  And maybe it won’t be much.

But maybe it will be a lot.  A committed marriage, a table full of children or hearts that long to know God more.  You just never know the impact of your life and love.

We may not have clean fingernails…

…but we sure know how to catch frogs.

and we can gently hold a bee flower for a long time and watch its tiny parts move

we love to share frogs with our little sis

and dig for carrots in the garden then peel them for Mama

and disappear with baby brother to snuggle him in a chair while Mama cooks

and delight in setting tea tables with mom’s wedding china and a flannel pillow case for a table cloth (can you see the flower petals they put in the sugar cubes?!?)

and share…because what else can you do when there are five kids in this cozy place?

# 501 – 508 on my thankful list this week

Oh motherhood…

There are so many high and low points in any given day.  It is hard sometimes to ride it out. The ups and downs of this life never cease to amaze me.

One day I’m serving up a lovely impromptu tea party for your girls and the next day I am driving home from a failed Costco trip and informing a 7 year old that his crying sounds like a dying horse.

One minute I’m giving a silly analogy for something and the next someone is sobbing because they took personal offense to the example given.

Someone is laughing and someone is crying at the very same time.

One person finds my dinner wonderful and another refuses to eat until tomorrow.

One second I’m at the end of my rope (again) with a boy then when I can’t find him for ten minutes and my mind runs a mile ahead of me and I’m sure I’ll never see him again.  All I can think in my panic is that the last thing I said to him was that he sounded like a dying horse.

Someone is doing math and loving it.  Someone else is doing math and hating it.

I’m up early and alone and get settled into my chair and breath a deep sigh.  Thirty seconds later the pitter patter on the hard floor tells me it was short lived.

A little boy is blessing me by doing the dishes.  A glass bowl breaks in his chubby hands.

Everyone is playing an elaborate game nicely in the front yard.  Until someone puts Audrey in the wheelbarrow and promptly (accidentally) dumps her onto the pavement.

I can scarcely keep up with it all.

And sometimes, I’m not okay with that.  But really – these are the ways my life is being shaped and changed and blessed.  In learning to roll with the rhythm of each day and choose to be thankful for how it plays out.